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McGrath: Mother’s Day (of reckoning) coming for senators

Updated: June 13, 2013 6:10PM



“This is just a new way of living,” Stephanie Decker told an ABC News reporter. “If the worst thing that ever happened is me losing my legs, I’m good.”

The Marysville, Ind., mother traded her limbs for the lives of her two children. And if she had a chance to do it again, she would not hesitate, she said.

As a tornado roared toward her small Indiana town a year ago, Decker gathered her two children beneath her body. Seconds later, the funnel cloud slammed into her house, which collapsed onto Decker, crushing her legs, which later had to be amputated. But her children escaped with minor injuries.

It was a drastic, life-altering sacrifice. But there was no decision to weigh for Decker, 36, who reacted instantly to protect her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.

There is no stronger drive in the universe than a mother’s fierce instinct to protect her children. It is the essence of motherhood, widely recognized in nature — never come between a mother grizzly bear and her cubs.

Wild hogs usually have a healthy fear of human beings. They will stop rooting for food and flee at the approach of a car or a pedestrian. But a 400-pound sow with razor-sharp tusks, sharing a sparsely populated neighborhood where I lived, snorted and huffed and gave chase to me and my dog Frank because her litter was nearby.

Imagine the sight: The tank-like beast clicking its hooves on the asphalt, a middle-aged man sprinting ahead, the tethered yellow Labrador retriever loping alongside. But there could have been rude consequences had the mother caught up with what she perceived as threats to her babies.

Another of my dogs, a black Lab named Biff, was more accustomed to the outdoors. He had driven skunks, raccoons and even bobcats from our property. But when Biff mixed it up one day with a mother loon, he met his match.

He had spied the loon swimming close to shore on a Wisconsin lake and scrambled into the water after it. Rather than fly away, the loon paddled off awkwardly, as if injured, heading for deep water and barely staying ahead of the dog.

As Biff gave up the pursuit and circled back, the loon came after him, pecking at his hindquarters until the dog clambered ashore, exhausted and defeated. The loon was the victor, having steered Biff away from her chicks, which were hidden safely in their nest in the bulrushes.

Given this maternal instinct, it’s no surprise that the mothers of children slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have vowed to continue their fight for gun control legislation — even after 46 U.S. senators voted against an expansion of background checks for gun buyers, killing the proposal.

Among the senators bowing to the influence of the National Rifle Association was Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley said that while he was saddened by the mass murder of children, he did not wish to curtail the rights of Americans — even though 90 percent of them support background checks, according to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll.

“Explanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown,” Grassley said, using contortionist logic that would have him oppose flu shots because a few people might still get the flu.

Another senator who annually receives an A grade from the NRA, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), echoed Grassley’s circular reasoning, saying the bill’s “Internet provisions would have been burdensome and difficult for citizens to comply with.”

So, here we have a man who rejected the pleas of mothers whose children were brutally killed by a crazed gunman so he could save South Carolina gun buyers from “burdensome” time spent in front of their computers. Clearly, he will say anything other than the fact that he traded his vote for NRA cash.

Newtown mom Nichole Hockley reacted to the senators’ condescension.

“They need to not just look us in the eyes but look at our children and the lost ones and see those faces, see what’s gone and remember this isn’t just about political parties,” she said.

The mother of Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the school shooting, Hockley has joined bereaved mothers Francine Wheeler (Benjamin), Voronique Pozner (Noah), and other victimized Newtown families to lobby for stricter gun control.

Life as they knew it was annihilated by a gun-wielding lunatic, and now they’re bringing their pain and grief and will to this important issue. And U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has vowed to resubmit his background-check bill.

Grassley, Graham and 44 other senators may temporarily celebrate their vote in the form of sustained and increased campaign cash from the NRA. But they may end up paying dearly, if not this year, then when they seek re-election. We’ve already seen senators who voted against background checks having to face angry constituents at home, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Betraying the expressed will of the great majority of the American people has cost them some of their reputation, their conscience and their integrity. Getting in the way of mothers trying to protect American children should cost them their political lives.

David McGrath, a former resident of Evergreen Park and Oak Forest, is an emeritus professor of English at the College of DuPage.



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